Soul siren

After years of playing music in Chico, Lisa Valentine releases debut recording

CAMMIE-winning vocalist Lisa Valentine.

CAMMIE-winning vocalist Lisa Valentine.

photo courtesy of lisa valentine

CD release
Lisa Valentine celebrates the release of her debut EP this Friday, June 7, 8 p.m., at 1078 Gallery. Bogg (with Aubrey Debauchery) and Katrina Rodriguez open.
Cost: $8

1078 Gallery
820 Broadway

Just after graduating high school, Lisa Valentine left her Corning home for Los Angeles to chase the dream, like so many others have, of being a famous musician. She’d been singing since childhood and writing songs since she first learned a few chords in a freshman guitar class, and believed her big break was imminent.

It didn’t quite happen that way.

“I was so naïve,” she said with a short laugh over an early afternoon cocktail at Duffy’s Tavern (where she also works as a bartender). “I thought I had the drive and was really inspired to write songs when I got there, but the culture shock was a bit much. I got scared and intimidated; I didn’t have the guts to put myself out there and get into places to play, and had no idea how to promote myself.”

Instead of finding stardom, she ended up in a boring job as a secretary in Orange County, starved a little, and was lucky to have family to stay with to keep her on track, she said. After a year, she returned home.

“I just hadn’t found myself yet, or grown into my own as a singer and songwriter,” she said.

Hearing Valentine belt out her soul-tinged, someone-done-me-wrong songs in her big, bluesy voice today, it’s hard to imagine she was ever a woman flagged with the self-doubt that she said continued to persist until the last few years.

Valentine started hitting full stride last summer, when a last-minute submission of her song “Mrs. Parker”—an ode to the 1920s firebrand, Dorothy Parker—led to her winning top honors at community radio station KZFR’s Celebration of the Song contest. She also recently received a CAMMIE for Best Female Singer and successfully crowd-funded $3,000 via to record her debut EP, Secret Lover.

Valentine sometimes performs alone with her guitar or backed by keys, a bass player or, as she said, “whoever she’s able to get together at the time.” She also plays at the semi-regular Duffy’s Sirens showcases with fellow musical drink-slingers Aubrey Debauchery and Katrina Rodriguez.

Valentine’s love of soul is apparent in her songs and live performances, a passion she said was ingrained into her while growing up with her grandma’s record collection.

“I grew up with a lot of Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson, which you can’t really avoid growing up in Corning,” she said. But she also played “a lot of old Motown, blues and soul, which I’ve always been really drawn to.”

Otis Redding, Roberta Flack and Ray Charles make the short list of her favorites, as does Gladys Knight. “She was one of my first idols,” she said of Knight. “I really want to see her someday, which I should do sooner than later. I still cover ‘Midnight Train to Georgia.’”

To best indulge this influence, Valentine spent the Indiegogo money wisely, recruiting horns, keys and a full band to record the album at Origami Lounge. Studio owner Scott Barwick engineered, while local jazz-guitarist/engineer Dave Elke helped oversee and organize the project, doing additional tracking at his home studio. It was then mastered at Sage Audio in Nashville, Tenn.

“It’s definitely the most professional, legit recording I’ve ever done.” Valentine said of the final product. “It’s pretty polished, and I’m proud of what we accomplished and grateful to everyone involved.”

Valentine said nothing is set in stone yet, but she hopes to take her songs on a two-week tour this July: “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and with the album I feel like I finally have something substantial to take with me.”